I could spend five minutes with you and, just by walking through your house, looking at your checkbook, looking at your bank account, going through your credit card statements, I will know what's really important to you in your life, for you've left behind a clear money trail. If people would only sit down and follow their money, they'd immediately see for themselves what their true money priorities really are.
The money trail tells you the whole story and it gives you an honest picture of what you'd been doing and what your choices had been. And for many, that picture isn't pretty. It basically shows that they're broke because they want to be, that things other than saving became priorities.
The focus in this part of Bankrate's financial literacy series is "growing your bottom-line" and, obviously, you cannot do that easily if too much debt is a major problem. So what is your recommended regimen for dealing with debt?
Credit card debt is the worst kind of debt you can have and it's my opinion that you should pay it off as soon as possible -- and you should pay off any other kind of debt that you can pay off and still be able to save some money for a rainy day. But, at a minimum, you really have to go out and knock out as many of those outstanding high-interest credit card accounts that you can.
Emergencies will happen, too, so you really have to save some money for a rainy day. Disasters will happen and you don't want to reach for a credit card every time you have to pay for them. And there are now dark skies out there for everybody, so we all need some cash to put away. Cash is king -- always has been, always will be.
What other steps would you advise people to take to firm up their bottom lines? What should folks be doing -- and doing without -- in today's challenged economy?
The first step is to determine what's really important to you. If you are already in "crisis mode," you have to spend your money accordingly -- no money for anything but what's essential.